The only way to forget is to remember, said Sigmund Freud. Or so David Mamet (A Whore’s Profession, p 116) reports and I have no reason to disbelieve him. Perhaps the remark is contained somewhere within The Interpretation of Dreams, in which there are long discussions of what is forgotten, what remembered, what confected, what elided, when we speak of our dreams: Since we can test the reliability of our memory only by objective means, and since such a test is impossible in the case of dreams, which are our own personal experience, and for which we know no other source than our memory, what value do our recollections of our dreams possess? I suppose the proposition leapt out at me when I was reading over lunch because all morning I had been trying to remember something that, last night, I decided to write about today. Which I have completely forgotten. The only way to remember is to forget is perhaps the advice I should be giving myself. An old friend came over for dinner and something that came up in our conversation sparked the desire to write – but what could it have been? I remember him telling me about his visit, last year, to Buenos Aires, where he and his new girlfriend stayed in the Hotel Bolivar. I remember him saying that that vast city, 14 million souls, does not look out towards the ocean beyond, nor to the river upon which it is built, nor to the hinterland to the west – but inwards, upon itself. My friend is a librarian and he is losing his sight to a hereditary form of macular degeneration; so it was natural that we moved on to a consideration of Borges’ idea that in Buenos Aires you can stray, as it were, into other times that are somehow contiguous with, but separate from, our own. And I think I might have been saying that the same is true of Sydney, that there are places in this city too where you can enter other times, which are always past times; and then we paused and laughed and began to wonder why we should think that such warps lead only into past time, why not into futures as well? But that, beguiling as it is as a notion, was not what I wanted to write about today. Nor did it touch upon the subject of the last post, with its mixing of dream recall and real life experience as if the two sometimes have, as I believe, much in common with each other. To say that you must remember in order to forget is an article of faith with me, I have said it before, we remember in order to write but we write to forget; and this too came up in the conversation last night. We were talking about the habit, if it is a habit and not an affliction, of waking in the middle of the night from dreams that have a splendour that ordinary reality so often lacks; and I told my friend how, when this happens to me and I can’t get back to sleep, I sometimes spend the time awake reconstructing in meticulous detail the garden of the house where I grew up; and he said have you ever written that down? And I said no, that I have planned to, here, there’s even a draft in the draft folder called The Garden at Burns Street; but I’m afraid that, if I do, then the written version might replace the more fluid and provisional entity that I construct, like a recurring dream that differs always in its details, in my mind. That if I remembered it in print then I might indeed forget it in mind. Or rather, that the written account might, as a kind of Authorised Version, supersede all of the many and various permutations this waking dream has as an active constituent, like a complex mantra or a ritual path, in my mind. And that wasn’t what I was going to write down here today either.


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  1. Michelle

    after reading this i’d like to stray (in memory), not merely for the sake of forgetting

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